Cape Town - The opening day of the U18 Craven Week and Academy Week dished up great excitement at Grey College on Monday where a handful of close encounters and good wins kept fans gripped on an icy day in Bloemfontein.
Solid wins were the order of the day in the Craven Week despite a number of matches proving to be close at times, with Western Province, SWD, the Valke and the Free State Cheetahs stamping their authority on day one.
The Capetonians, who took top honours in the 2018 edition of the tournament, registered the biggest win of the day as they got the better of Boland for a 50-24 win.
There was a good mix of close encounters and big wins in the SA Rugby Academy Week, but it was again Western Province, who made the strongest statement with their 73-10 victory against the Blue Bulls. With their Western Province XV counterparts also registering a victory, it proved to be a good day for the union, while Boland and the Limpopo Blue Bulls also scored more than 40 points in their wins.
The Sharks, Pumas CD and Leopards, in turn, all held on for three-point victories in hard-close encounters.
U18 SA Rugby Craven Week match summaries:
Western Province gave a strong account of themselves as they powered their way to a 50-24 victory against their Cape neighbours, Boland. The team's forwards laid a solid foundation up front, and their backs showed enterprise on attack, while they did well to round off their point-scoring chances. Fullback Kade Wolhuter was in fine form, scoring two tries and five penalty goals for his 20 points, while No 8 Gideon Van Wyk also crossed the chalk twice. Such was the high quality of the DHL Western Province display they limited Boland to three points in the first half, but the Winelands’ team fought back strongly with three second-half tries. This, however, not enough to counter their rivals.
The Free State Cheetahs also made their presence felt as they produced the goods in a gripping match in which both teams threw the kitchen sink to emerge 46-24 victors. It was a quality battle as both teams tried to make their presence felt using their forwards, and supported this with hard running and tactical kicking. The KwaZulu-Natal side struck first but a brace by the home side’s centre, Lesley Botha, saw them score four tries to three by the visitors for a morale-boosting 24-19 halftime lead. The teams continued to give everything after the break, but the Free State Cheetahs did well to capitalise on their try-scoring chances, adding three more tries to their tally, while they limited the opposition to one more try for the victory.
The Valke started their clash against the Leopards with a bang, racing to a convincing 29-0 half-time lead, but the Leopards fought back with intent to close the gap to 29-24, before the Valke’s No 8, Franco Enslin, wrapped up his hat-trick to nudge the side to a 42-24 victory. The Gauteng side ran hard on attack in the first half and complimented this with good finishing, but they met strong resistance from the Leopards after the break, who retained possession and did well to apply pressure on attack. The Kempton Park outfit, however, remained composed until the end and held on for the win.
The SWD Eagles were made to work hard for their 43-22 victory against the Phakisa Pumas, with a good second-half fightback allowing them to overturn a 15-12 halftime deficit. In the end the George side out-scored their opponents seven tries to three, with fullback Ashchaldo Kiewiet earning two five-pointers, as they showed patience on attack and chipped away at the Phakisa Pumas defence.
U18 SA Rugby Craven Week Day 1 results (Monday, July 1):
Valke 43-24 Leopards
Pumas 22-43 SWD Eagles
Western Province 50-24 Boland
Free State Cheetahs 46-24 Sharks
SA Rugby Academy Week match summaries:
The Sharks and Free State Cheetahs set the tone for the week with a gripping opening match in which neither team gave an inch, with the visitors edging through for a narrow 41-38 victory thanks to a vital penalty goal. Both sides scored six tries and converted four of them, with the Free State centre Franco Knoetze touching down a notable five times for his side, but the Kwa-Zulu Natalians opted for a rewarding penalty goal, which paid off.
Western Province racked up the biggest score of the day as they ran riot on attack against the Blue Bulls, scoring an impressive 11 tries for a rewarding 73-10 victory. The Capetonians were in hot form, cutting through the defence at will, and they backed this up with fantastic support play. WP speedster Dalvon Bradley Blood touched down four times for his team, while Luke Burger earned a brace. With limited possession and no answer for the endless WP attack, the Pretoria side managed only 10 points for their efforts.
Their Western Province XV counterparts also showed their class against EP Elephants CD as they secured a comprehensive 41-17 victory thanks to their seven tries to three. The first half was competitive as the Cape side led 19-12, but they broke away after play resumed, with prop Wiaan Schmidt and scrumhalf Brandon Jafta each dotting down twice.
The Limpopo Blue Bulls also got their campaign off to a strong start as they played their way to a 47-24 victory against the EP Elephants after taking an encouraging 24-12 half-time lead. Limpopo flyhalf, Zander Deridder, proved to be a points’ machine for his team, scoring two tries, four conversions and three penalty goals for a personal tally of 27 points. The Port Elizabeth team tried hard to make their presence felt, and they scored four tries for their efforts, but the opposition had too much firepower.
Boland used their point-scoring opportunities well against Zimbabwe, with the team building up an encouraging 22-10 half-time lead before securing a 45-29 victory. The Winelands side scored six tries to five by Zimbabwe, although three penalty goals allowed them to create some breathing space on the scoreboard. Boland scrumhalf Justin Henning scored two of his team’s tries, while Aaron Juma (hooker) and Kwesi Owusu (winger) each scored a brace for the visiting side.
Pumas CD's accurate goal-kicking sealed them a narrow 20-17 victory against Border CD despite the Eastern Cape outfit outscoring them three tries to two - with Lwazi Mdoda contributing a brace. But the Mpumalanga outfit’s two conversions and two penalty goals earned them the win.
The clash between Sharks CD and the Leopards was equally hard-fought, but the men from Potchefstroom prevailed as they were able to build on their 17-12 half-time lead for a 27-24 win, and once again a penalty goal proved to be the difference on the scoreboard. The teams each scored four times and slotted over two conversions, but a penalty goal by Leopards flyhalf Stephan van Niekerk got them the desired result.
SA Rugby Academy Week Day 1 results (Monday, July 1):
Free State Cheetahs 38-41 Sharks
Border CD 17-20 Pumas CD
Sharks CD 24-27 Leopards
Western Province 73-10 Blue Bulls
EP Elephants CD 17-41 Western Province XV
Zimbabwe 29-45 Boland
EP Elephants 24-47 Limpopo Blue Bulls
U18 SA Rugby Craven Week Day 2 fixtures (Tuesday, July 2):
09:30 - Griquas v Limpopo Blue Bulls (A Field)
11:00 - Blue Bulls XV v Golden Lions XV (A Field)
12:30 - EP Elephants v Griffons (A Field)
14:00 - Blue Bulls v Border (A Field)
15:30 - Golden Lions v Western Province XV (A Field)
U18 SA Rugby Academy Week Day 2 fixtures (Tuesday, July 2):
08:00 - SWD Eagles v Border (A Field)
08:00 - Griquas CD v SA LSEN XV (B Field)
09:20 - Phakisa Pumas v SA LSEN (B Field)
10:40 - Blue Bulls XV v Griffons CD (B Field)
12:00 - Griffons v Griquas (B Field)
13h20 – Namibia v Golden Lions Academy XV (B Field)
14h40 – Valke v Golden Lions Academy (B Field)